Tuesday, February 15, 2011

WORST. CRISIS. YET. Final Crisis Is A Nightmarish Execution Of A Questionable Idea.

The Good: Some decent artwork.
The Bad: Storyline is so fractured as to be nonsensical.
The Basics: A fairly lame sequel, Final Crisis restores the DC Multiverse while gutting some truly great stories.

There are enough times that I stand alone with an opinion that I no longer look at it as a bad thing to stand up and raise my voice contrary to the popular opinion. When it comes to graphic novels and the like, my progression through my “Wonder Woman” Year was distracted from occasionally by side trips where Wonder Woman is only a peripheral character. Arguably the most extensive distraction was the Crisis Saga. Back in the 1980s, the first huge crossover event occurred with Crisis On Infinite Earths (click here for the review!). Despite how I felt about that, given the way Infinite Crisis (click here for the review!) ended, I felt compelled to continue on to Final Crisis. Now I wish I had not.

Billed as the final part of a trilogy, the point of Final Crisis seems to be to re-establish the DC Multiverse and I have no problem with that. My problem is that writer Grant Morrison seems to either have no idea what story he wants to tell or he wasn't given nearly enough issues to tell it in. I'm a smart person, but following the story panel to panel and page to page makes little to no sense at times and Final Crisis is an absolute flop. Moreover, those who finished Infinite Crisis and enjoyed the sense of menace in the final panels of that storyline will be utterly disappointed by the fact that the potential of that storyline is not followed up on in Final Crisis. Instead, Final Crisis is a collection of ten chapters from the Final Crisis storyline and it goes off in an entirely different direction.

In the realm of the Multiverse Monitors, a Monitor is sentenced to oblivion and his partner reacts badly to it. Back with characters we actually care about, a god is killed on Earth which brings the Green Lantern Corps and the supposedly infallible Alpha Lanterns in to investigate. After detaining Hal Jordan, a new villain, Libra, emerges. She approaches the supervillain community and while she initially offers them everything they might want – including the apparent murder of the Martian Manhunter – she soon begins to enslave the villains just as she is having them enslave the populace. The Anti-Life Equation is spreading and making humanity into mindless drones who have come to work . . .

. . .for Darkseid. As Darkseid makes manifest, Earth falls to his forces and it looks like all of the multiverse will be destroyed. Superman, in the meantime, has been recruited to save the multiverse, a mission he takes on to save the life of Lois Lane. As he and several alternate-universe Supermen go through a trippy journey to Limbo and discover the machine needed to save the universe, heroes like Green Arrow, Wonder Woman and Black Lightning fall to the forces of Darkseid. And, oh, Barry Allen – the Flash killed in the prequel to Crisis On Infinite Earths comes back.

I interject the last part into my usual straightforward plot summary because there's no point going through the entire plot. Over the course of the ten chapters, Final Crisis ricochets (not “evolves”) through several different storylines and none of them are developed quite enough to thrill this reader. The reason for that is simple: Final Crisis appears to be full of essentially good ideas, but the execution of those ideas is erratic, underdeveloped or just plain pointless. So, for example, I can respect Grant Morrison for trying to expand the DC universe by exploring a group of Japanese superhero youth (or wannabees, it's not entirely clear in the writing, though they do seem to be able to drive fast) and give them a part in the Crisis. But as I look at the work as a whole, the time spent on them could have been spent better developing any of about twenty other plotlines throughout the book.

Which brings me to my usual graphic novel muse: Wonder Woman. Fans of Wonder Woman will go from being angry to baffled by her part in Final Crisis, just as fans of Green Arrow, Batman and the Martian Manhunter are likely to be pretty cheesed off by this volume. Wonder Woman does her usual thing of trying to stop evil. As a reward for her attempt, she is infected with a virus and she starts leading the legion of Libra's braindead forces whilst wearing a half-mask of a dog. Then, she disappears for most of the book. It is only in the last chapter that Morrison seems to remember Wonder Woman and I've honestly no idea what happens with her. Seriously. On one panel, Superman sees her infected, laments with something to the effect of “Oh, no, Diana!” and on the next panel, the mask is off, and she's grinding it under heel. There is no causality there. Unless, Superman being depressed about his friends turning evil makes them good again.

Despite an opening strong in Green Lantern material, Final Crisis very quickly degenerates into yet another Superman story. Sure, the Flashes have something to do and the reappearance of Barry Allen is pretty neat, but for the most part, Final Crisis turns away from its dark, world-destroying tone to present a bunch of alternate universe Supermen – like one version whose rocket landed in Nazi Germany, so he is basically a Nazi Superman (which is arguably the best joke in the story) – doing what they can to save the multiverse. Guess how it ends?

Frankly, I'm sick of only Superman being able to save all existence and Final Crisis basically makes a deep pit of mood where everything looks entirely bleak and solves the crisis in a particularly banal way. I think. After reading and rereading certain sections, the plots between the heroes, villains, gods and the like are so convoluted that the final chapter seems like a desperate, easy cop-out as opposed to a real solution to the rise of Darkseid.

As for the artwork, none of it truly leaped out at me. Instead, I was pretty shocked to read while doing additional research for the review that one of the Supermen was Barack Obama. I'm not surprised that one of the presidents in an alternate universe was Superman – that was pretty obvious. That the man depicted was supposed to be Obama was utterly unclear. Thus, at best, the artwork is hit or miss. Because the story is so fractured, I would want for the artwork to contain a great sense of movement, but it did not. As a result, the most of the superhero characters are recognizable, but not much more.

Ultimately, this is a book for people who like comic books and frankly, those who love a great story will want something more, something better. I know I did.

For other DC Universe graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Blackest Night - Black Lantern Corps Volume 2
Identity Crisis
Wonder Woman: Contagion


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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